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Franklin cop testifies at Lindorff trial




A detective who interviewed a Franklin woman charged with manslaughter in the death of her adopted son testified Monday that it is acceptable to lie to a suspect during questioning.

"I'm allowed to by law,' said Detective Sgt. Richard O'Brien of the Franklin Township Police Department. "You can lie in hopes of gaining the truth from them.'

Telling falsehoods is "one of the tools law enforcement has left in the arsenal,' O'Brien added.

O'Brien was cross-examined Monday about his four-hour taped interview with Heather Lindorff.

The interview was recorded on Dec. 14, 2001, just hours after the death of Lindorff's Russian-born 5-year-old son, Jacob.

Jacob died of a head injury, an autopsy determined. He also had been bruised and burned.

Prosecutors say Heather Lindorff inflicted the fatal injury.

The defense contends the boy was abused by his biological mother before his adoption two months earlier.

She sometimes slammed the boy's head on the floor as punishment, Lindorff's lawyer argued.

Heather Lindorff, 37, is charged with aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault, child endangerment and child neglect. James Lindorff, 54, is charged with neglect. They are being tried together.

In cross-examination, O'Brien acknowledged some questions he asked Heather Lindorff were based on conjecture.

He said he asked her about Jacob Lindorff having a fever from his burns but only knew he'd been described as "on the warm side.'

"You questioned her and made that a statement of fact,' said defense attorney Stephen Patrick.

Patrick, reading from an interview transcript, said O'Brien also questioned Lindorff about her son "screaming' when he was burned in the bathtub.

"What are the facts to support that?' Patrick asked.

"I don't have any,' O'Brien said, other than presuming anyone would scream when burned.

And when he told Lindorff "somebody had (Jacob) scared to death,' O'Brien said it was "based on what I thought the child went through.'

"So it's just a guess,' Patrick replied.

Throughout O'Brien's questioning, Lindorff maintained she did not physically abuse Jacob. She did question, however, her failure to notice his need for medical care.

Testimony resumes today.

Reach Bernie Weisenfeld at (856) 251-3345 or bweisenfeld@courierpostonline.com

2003 Dec 9